A New Jersey judge showed why rape victims are often reluctant to seek justice. His views are wrong and horrendously outdated.
Picture this: two teenagers meet at a house party. They get drunk and head down to the basement, where it is dark, silent and private. While there, the young man and young woman, who is clearly unable to give consent, have sex.
It is pretty obvious that the boy has raped her, right? Judge James Troiano of New Jersey’s Superior Court did not think so. Instead, he questioned whether the attack was rape and told the victim she had ruined her rapist’s life.
Troiano’s reasoning for saying the boy deserved leniency is utterly ridiculous. To him, the boy’s upbringing in a “good family” grants him immunity from the law.
This kind of thinking is not just dated. It is dangerous. The judge’s reasoning and subsequent victim-blaming show why rape is often unreported.
According to a 2016 Justice Department report, almost 80 percent of sexual assaults are not reported. There are several reasons for this sickeningly high number. Most are false notions that have been strengthened by toxic cultures.
Many survivors do not file a police report because they have little faith that the cops will be able, or even willing, to help. Others are afraid of retaliation from their rapist, an idea reinforced by our powerful, patriarchal society.
The Me Too Movement helped begin the process of reversing these archaic attitudes. People around the world are recognizing that victims have been ignored or silent for far too long. I guess Judge Troiano missed that global memo.
Showing the world just how widespread sexual assault and harassment is was never going to magically fix the problem. However frustrating it is that naive people like Troiano still exist, it reminds us that work still needs to be done.
Our culture is grossly sexualized in 2019. There is still an underlying theme that women are objects to be viewed for sexual pleasure, reinforced through sultry Victoria’s Secret campaigns and shows like Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
We need to address the broader issues that often lead to assaults. In this case, alcohol played a major role, as it often does, although being drunk does not mean what happened was okay.
While it is important to note that both teenagers were intoxicated, underage access to alcohol is not the primary issue. The 16-year-old boy knew what he did was wrong. In a text to his friends, he said, “when your first time having sex was rape.”
Along with that self-incriminating message, he shared a video he took of the assault. Not only did he communicate what he did to the girl, but he also provided clear evidence that it took place.
There is no he-said, she-said situation here. There is proof that the girl was attacked and the boy believed it to be rape. There should be no lengthy trial, only an open-and-shut case. However, Judge Troiano felt he needed to question the boy’s description of the incident: rape.
He wondered if an assault could be called rape when there were no weapons involved and it was only one person that the victim had to have known. But rape and sexual assault are one and the same in many states, including his own.
New Jersey law defines rape as, “penetration, no matter how slight, in which physical force or coercion is used or in which the victim is physically or mentally incapacitated.”
Troiano is clearly in the wrong here. It is horrible that he would question both the victim and the perpetrator’s description of the incident. She was intoxicated. She could give no consent.
The “Good” Argument
According to the judge, the courts should go easy on the perpetrator because he is a good kid. Not only is he from a wonderful family, but is also a great student and an Eagle Scout.
In his decision to deny trying him as an adult, he said the boy was, “clearly a candidate for not just college but probably for a good college.”
The “but they are a good kid” argument has been used before. It is never okay. It often leads to unfair leniency for the perpetrator. In 2016, Brock Turner was sentenced to only six months after raping a young woman at Stanford University.
It does not matter if you rescue abused animals in your spare time or are an Eagle Scout. Even if you have lived a perfect life, rape is wrong. It is inexcusable. Justice needs to be served and demands proper punishment fitting the crime.
Judge Troiano is so backward in his views that the whole country took notice. Hopefully, he loses his job over his horrible treatment of the whole situation. With the appeals court overturning Troiano’s decision to not try the boy as an adult, proper justice appears to be happening. No apology can take back the blame he tried to place on the victim.
In his eyes, the perpetrator’s life will be ruined by this accusation and subsequent trial. The person whose life is actually destroyed is the 16-year-old girl.
Finally, it is important to remember that the judge is not the center of the case. There are two teenagers who are going through a horrific process. I hope they both have the support they need and that the victim knows that the nation is on her side in all of this.